Wednesday, January 21


"Ales is probably the smoothest player in the league today when he's got the puck...when he's stickhandling, nobody's close. You had Gretzky here, now you've got this guy."
- Joe Sakic on Ales Hemsky

Normally I don't put much stock in comments from a guy who maimed himself in a one man snowblower accident, but I'll cut Joey some slack. Plus, he's right. You see, this is Ales Hemsky, he plays for my team. You wish he played for your team. 

He's just different. It's the way he moves - the composure, self-assuredness, and that rare dynamic quality that brings an expectation that something is going to happen every time he touches the puck. But it's more than that.

You hear a lot of broadcasters or fans say a player is "a joy to watch." Usually that's applied to a guy who scores a lot of goals or does things at a high level, without regard to the WAY they do it. Ales Hemsky is a joy to watch aesthetically. If Hemsky never scored a goal - and believe me, there used to be many nights when you thought he was intentionally trying not to - he would still be worth watching. There's a rhythm to his game, a fluidity of motion, that's unlike anyone else in hockey. Nearly every Hemsky goal, even a wrist shot from the slot, is "highlight reel" quality, because of the buildup to it and the grace with which he does it. I'll admit it, I've thought about what his lips would feel like, pressed against mine. Don't judge me.

For all you non-Oiler fans, if I could compare Hemsky to another player it would be Johan Cruijff. You know, the great Dutch footballer of the 1970's? 
(At this point, Greener is fuming, because not only am I not waxing poetic about him, I'm now talking about football...and not calling it soccer). 

Cruijff was the most elegant of athletes, a near perfect blend of speed, quickness, balance and agility, complimented by a limitless footballing I.Q. The great Rudolf Nureyev was fascinated by his movements and loved to watch videos of Cruijff playing. Nureyev's assistant once hypothesized that it was because Nureyev thought Cruijff would be a better dancer than the legend himself. Cruijff and Hemsky share that same balletic quality. They almost look out of place playing a sport.

With Hemsky it's those three crossovers in the neutral zone gearing up to top speed, the shoulder drop to freeze the d-man, the half push-off (in lieu of a full stride) that kicks him clear when turning the corner, and his puck control in traffic while under pressure. Put it all in one package with innate hockey sense, vision, and fearlessness, and you have a very special player.

Hemsky used to be a "potential" guy, the prettiest 15 goal, 70 point scorer in the league. This year he's taken his game to a new level and become the unquestioned leader of this team. It's not just aesthetics anymore. In the next four years (the time Hemsky has remaining on his current contract), Ales Hemsky's play will determine the success of the Oilers. If Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner live up to their fat contracts it will be because of Ales Hemsky. If the Oilers are going to win a Stanley Cup, it will likely come during that period as Hemsky begins his prime and graduates to elite status.

Others may be better, but no one is better to watch.


eyebleaf said...

I must admit, my thoughts were with you after that 10-2 debacle last night. You must have been drinking all day.

I hope Hemsky continues to blossom into a full-fledged star. As you know, I have Horcoff in my pool. I'm hoping Hemsky makes him better.

Fucking Horcoff.

Pension Plan Puppets said...

Sadly, like Cruyff, he'll never win anything :(

Jay said...

Nothing against Hemsky, who is very talented and everything, but Pavel Datsyuk just doubled over laughing while reading Joe Sakic's quote.

Then he went out and made some poor goalie look absolutely retarded. Again.

Moose said...



European Cup: 1971, 1972, 1973
Intercontinental Cup: 1972
UEFA Super Cup: 1972, 1973
La Liga: 1974
Copa del Rey: 1978
Eredivisie: 1966, 1967,1968, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1982, 1983, 1984
KNVB Cup: 1967, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1983, 1984
European Footballer of the Year: 1971, 1973, 1974

Not to mention the 11 titles he won as a manager. But okay...

Moose said...

Nav: That's funny, 'cos my thoughts were on puking.

Jay: I think I made my thoughts on Pavel Datsyuk perfectly clear in podcast #6. Have a listen.

more green said...

I just looked up this Cruyff guy on youtube. It might've been the Alicia Keyes "No One" that was accompanying it but his moves gave me shivers. He starts from the half line and just motors through people. Did he ever learn to cross with his left foot though?

Anonymous said...

oh this is very sad

I think Cruyff' bad luck

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Anaconda said...

I'm from Ottawa, and I must ask "Why do you hate the Sens so?"
They are a VITAL part of the community.
They are responsible for the education of many a doctor and politician: Who else (Other than the Leafs) to get out EARLY in the golf season to provide these needed golf lessons?